The same night it declared April Fair Housing Awareness Month, Charlotte City Council approved $23 million for nine affordable housing projects.
The projects include seven rental projects and two properties for affordable homeownership. This would bring the city’s total investment in affordable housing to over $260 million over the past ten years.
Of the nine properties approved for funding, only one is led by a Black-owned real estate development company, Laurel Street Residential. The company’s President and CEO, Dionne Nelson, told QCity Metro that the process leading up to the city council’s vote tonight was a “journey.”
Laurel Street Residential was awarded $5.8 million for the project.
Nelson said that Laurel Street Residential partnered with real estate company Crescent Communities to create the affordable housing project. Laurel Street Residential will head the River District Apartments’ construction, bringing 87 low-income apartments to Charlotte.
Why it matters: Laurel Street Residential is one of Charlotte’s leading Black-owned development companies. Their latest apartment development is a part of a larger project by Crescent Communities called the River District.
Nelson founded Laurel Street Residential in 2011; Senior Vice President of Laurel Street Residential Lee Cochran said its “main focus” is building affordable and mixed-income housing. Other local developments include Park Terrace, Sharon Oaks, and The Renaissance, a public housing development in partnership with INLIVIAN.
This is Laurel Street Residential’s second effort to secure funding for River District Apartments.
Nelson told QCity Metro in a recent interview that the project was first approved for funding in 2021, but construction was delayed because of market changes like increased construction costs and interest rates.
“It has been a journey because the market has changed a great deal since the original concept was put on the table,” Nelson said.
Laurel Street was initially awarded $2 million for the River District project but needed an additional $6 million. Laurel Street returned the $2 million to the city and reworked the project to reduce the budget.
“We know the importance of affordable housing for the city of Charlotte. But we also are equally committed to being a good steward of the city’s resources. So [we] want to do the best that we can to make sure we’re using those resources as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Nelson said.
Cochran said the development company had to decrease the size of the project to lower the asking price.
Cochran said the new plan means Laurel Street cannot offer as many units as initially planned.
“You can never put enough money toward affordable housing. But we always try to do as many as we can with that kind of resources that are available, and that’s part of the secret sauce of doing this work,” Cochran said.
Many of Laurel Street Residential’s properties offer age-restricted senior housing, but the River District Project will be open to all ages.
“[This development] is trying to create opportunities for individuals and families to have access to market-quality units that are affordable to households that make between 30% and 80% of the median income,” Nelson said.
Cochran said the apartment complex, which will have one, two and three-bedroom units, will appeal to families because the River District is a “brand new” community.
“We typically do senior communities in [areas] that are already established, where seniors are trying to stay in the community,” Cochran said.
Cochran said that most of the developments Laurel Street Residential does are in partnership with other community stakeholders like Black churches. Laurel Street Residential has partnered with churches like Saint Paul Baptist, The Park Church and Little Rock AME Zion.
“We kind of partner with folks that have a vision for what they want to try to accomplish. And they need someone to come in and knows how to develop it and build the housing,” Cochran said.
Construction on River District apartments will begin in 2024. Laurel Street Residential hopes to see residents moving in by 2025.
Amenities for River District apartments include washer and dryer connections, fully equipped kitchens, a fitness center and a multipurpose room. Cochran said in the future, CATS will extend bus service to the community.